It’s Saturday morning, and where are you?
Maggie Vessey, a Soquel High School and Cal Polytechnic University alumna, stands on the maroon track of Santa Cruz High School in a powder-blue sports bra and black shorts. Heat shimmers around the distant bend; the sky is clear and the sun is hot on the neck. A few morning joggers circle her on the outside lanes, and on the grass of the field the groundskeeper sprays yard lines for the upcoming football season.
With a hop-skip into her stride, Vessey runs.
Vessey’s acceleration is staggering. Imagine water bursting a dam into an unsuspecting valley or the faucet of a deep sink turned on full bore, shooting spray in every direction.
While never inconspicuous¬—a tan, long-legged 5’7” topped with an explosion of blonde hair—Vessey, 28, has become a familiar name in the Track and Field world. Her arrival was heralded at the 2009 Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, OR, after her dark-horse victory in the women’s 800 meters. She continued her break-out season by winning meets in Rome and Monaco, running the year’s fastest 800 meter time of 1 minute, 57 seconds, and representing the U.S. at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin, the last of which gives her the most pride.
“As an athlete it’s one of the highest honors to represent your country,” Vessey says. “It makes you feel special.”
The track workout is one of Vessey’s final as she draws to a close a long season begun in March. However, before she enjoys some well-earned rest, she has one final meet in which she will again don the Red, White, and Blue singlet of Team USA.
Vessey’s final meet of the year will be on September 11 at the 2010 DecaNation, hosted by the Fédération Française d'Athlétisme in Paris. In the City of Lights, she joins a hand-picked squad where she will represent the U.S. in the 800 meter run against teams from seven other nations.
However, unlike most of her teammates, it was Vessey who chose to join the team this year.
“[The 2008 DecaNation] was my very first overseas meet, and it was my first time wearing a USA uniform. I didn’t know if I would keep on running. I wasn’t a contracted athlete,” Vessey says. “They gave me my beginnings into the wild ride of international racing.”
Now a New Balance athlete, Vessey is a rock star at a meet designed to give up-and-coming runners—like she once was—international competitive experience. She won the 800 meters in 2009, and while only a repeat will satisfy her in 2010, the meet is a team-scored event, with each individual’s placing counted toward an overall team place. While not as much pressure as some of the individual races she’s run in the past, “You really want to do well for the team,” Vessey says.
The DecaNation meet is a celebration to a successful season. However, Vessey is already eyeing the next years: 2011 is a World Championship year, and Vessey plans on being in London for the 2012 Olympic Games. Every time she toes the line, she gains valuable race experience that will be drawn on in the years to come.
“At her level, you have to compete internationally,” says coach Greg Brock. “In the long run, [the DecaNation meet] will make her a better competitor.”
After the lights dim on the Paris track, Vessey begins her down-time—something as essential for a professional athlete as a disciplined workout regimen.
“I’m not much of a person that sleeps in, but it will be nice to not jack my heart rate up to 180,” Vessey says.
And just like any other Santa Cruz native, you’ll find her at the beach.
“I love the beach: sitting, reading, walking,” Vessey says. “My life is beach and family oriented.”
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